Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader and parliamentary affairs minister, says the Auditor-General, Daniel Yaw Domelevo, should focus on principles in paying the GH¢29.7m salary arrears being demanded by former MPs rather than saying the request of the Forum for Former Members of Parliament (FFMP) is invalid and amounts to a conflict of interest.
The Majority Leader who is also part of the FFMP explained that the Auditor-General should have confronted himself with whether or not the request to the Chief of Staff was legitimate.
“…what should have confronted the Auditor-General with is whether or not, a committee was established, whether or not payments were made, whether or not the payments that were made were adequate or not adequate, those are the matters that should confront the Auditor-General, it is not about conflict of interest,” Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu told Citi News on Monday, May 5.
Frema Osei Opare, the Chief of Staff, had written to the Auditor General in a letter dated April 22, 2020, upon a request by the Forum for Former Members of Parliament (FFMP), led by David Apasera, a former Peoples National Convention (PNC) MP for Bolgatanga Central in relation to some salary arrears allegedly due them under the Fourth Parliament, and requested a verification audit.
The forum sent their request to the Chief of Staff in a letter dated April 17, 2020.
But in response to the Chief of Staff’s request, Daniel Yaw Domelevo in a letter dated May 8, 2020, declined to carry out the audit verification request and said the FFMP was not entitled to the GH¢29.7m salary arrears, adding that, the request was “invalid”.
The Auditor-General mentioned in his letter that the request also amounts to a conflict of interest because most of the beneficiaries would be members of the current government, including the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo himself and the Chief of Staff, Frema Osei Opare who was making the audit request.
“…It amounts to a conflict of interest to make an additional payment of 20 per cent salary increase per annum for four years to former Members of Parliament covering a period of 10 to 14 years ago, especially when some of them are now in the Executive, i.e. the approving authority.”
In response, Osei-Kyei-Mensah Bonsu said, “It is really an unfortunate statement to have come from the Auditor-General, because, the issue is whether or not, a committee was established by the President.”
He noted that the arrears emanated from the era of President Atta-Mills and the Chinery Hesse Committee appointed by President Kufuor submitted recommendations of emoluments to the then Speaker of Parliament.
He explained that on matters of such payments to Article 71 officeholders, the president is required to appoint a committee that will then submit recommendations to the President for approval.
Further, regarding the president, ministers and deputy ministers, he said that the onus is on Parliament to approve on the basis of the recommendations submitted by the committee, whilst the president approves that of the Parliamentarians.
He continued: “When President Mills assumed office, there was no evidence that Parliament had approved” the emoluments due President Kufuor, his ministers and deputy ministers of state, and accordingly he was not going to pay anything.
He added that when it became evident that the committee’s report had not been approved by Parliament, President Atta-Mills then appointed a committee led by Ishmael Yamson to look into the issue.
The issue, Osei-Kyei-Mensah Bonsu explained, became a subject of litigation when the Ishmael Yamson Committee determined that it could not find the document which had been approved by Parliament.
Bonsu indicated that Alban Bagbin, the then-Majority Leader, stated emphatically before the Ishmael Yamson Committee that Parliament had approved the said recommendation, and that he Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu also appeared before the Ishmael Yamson Committee, and hence could testify to that.
He observed that the committee arrived at a different conclusion when everybody else thought the matter had been settled.
Kyei-Mensah Bonsu noted, “We [Parliamentarians] felt that the President at the time had no power to establish a committee to make a determination as to how much should be paid to the former Members of Parliament because, it is not his business or part of his remit to establish a committee to make a determination.”
“In any event, the Majority Leader [Alban Bagbin] and the Minority Leader [Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu] had jointly made a declaration before the Ishmael Yamson Committee that it had been approved, it was for the president at the time [Mills] to approve of the recommendation…Now they came to tell us that, well, they couldn’t find a copy of that report that had been approved by the presidency in respect of the Members of Parliament, plus the Speaker. Whose fault was it?”
“So, as far as I’m concerned, for anybody to stand on that to say that the report wasn’t approved, to me, it was unfortunate understanding of the establishment of the committee by the sitting president, and the approval process granted by parliament on one side and the presidency on the other side.”
The Majority Leader then stated that the Auditor General should have rather focused on “whether or not, the recommendations by that committee was properly established and was approved by Parliament. And those are the matters of consideration, it’s not about conflict of interest.
“In any event, the president has not taken any matter to court, Chief of Staff has not taken any mater to court, I [Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu] have not taken any matter to court but there are many, many people who used to be part of Parliament, who are no longer in Parliament.
“Indeed, with respect to our side [NPP] of Members of Parliament who will otherwise come for consideration if anything should be done, there are only about three or four of us, myself, the honourable(s) Ken Ohene Agyapong, KT Hammond and I think, Opare Ansah, there are only four of us.
“On the other side [NDC], we have [Alban] Bagbin, we have Yieleh Chereh, we have Collins Dauda, we have Eric Opoku… in fact, on the other side they are even more, that is why I am saying that your personalization to me is unfortunate. Let’s talk to the principle,” the majority leader charged.
“The principle is what I have raised. And as I’m saying, what should have confronted the Auditor-General is whether or not, a committee was established, whether or not payments were made, whether or not the payments that were made were adequate or not adequate, those are the matters that should confront the Auditor-General, it is not about conflict of interest.